As another Halloween comes and goes, you may find yourself wishing that it was as easy to remove real spiderwebs from your home as it is the fake webs. It’s funny that among the ghouls and goblins characterizing early fall, spiderwebs have become so prominently featured. The webs themselves pose no risk, yet walking through one evokes a suppressed expertise in martial arts, or at the very least the hair on our necks to raise. Even if a web is empty, it’s easy to imagine that somewhere in the shadows there are spiders watching. Are they really there, or is it your imagination? How can you possibly know?
Actually, there is a lot of information contained in the shape, size, and complexity of a web. All spiders have the capacity to spin multiple types of silk, but each species uses that silk in specialized ways and for different purposes. Some of those purposes require the spider to remain nearby, while other silk formations may have been abandoned for years before you found them. Whether you’re at home or at work, a basic understanding of how spiders use silk can help inform decisions about the pest control approach that is right for you.
The simplest form of silk you’re likely to encounter is called a dragline. Draglines are strands of silk that spiders use as a safety net. Though they’re considered the smartest arthropod, sometimes spiders misjudge the distance from one place to the next. When that happens, draglines prevent the spider from falling to a quick demise. Once the spider is safe, its dragline is detached and left behind. By the time we find these silk bridges, the spider is often long gone. It’s common to see draglines on boxes, furniture, or stored product that hasn’t been moved for extended periods. Frequently cleaning and moving stored items will help prevent the accumulation of abandoned webs.
Moderately complex uses of silk are employed by spiders that hunt for prey on the ground. Wolf spiders, recluses, and other ground hunting species primarily use their silk for purposes such as building hammocks, creating egg sacs, and wrapping prey. When spider species hunt on the ground, their webs may go entirely unnoticed. However, if you look closely at the corners of a room, you may find small, opaque silk structures that house a spider or their eggs. This type of silk is strong, sticky, and requires the most elbow grease to clean away. In this instance, focusing on exclusion efforts and exterior perimeter treatments is your best bet to keep unwelcome visitors out of your building.
On the most complicated end of the silk spectrum, we have the weavers. Spiders that hunt from the air typically build the most intricate webs using the largest variety of silks. Like a surname, the shape of a web indicates the family of the spider that built it. For example, Charlotte from E. B. White’s classic tale “Charlotte’s Web” was an orb weaver. Her webs were the stereotypical round webs that we associate with spiders. In fact, there are several species, like Argiope aurantia, that have even been found to “write” in their webs like Charlotte. Orb webs are designed to be both elastic and strong enough to absorb the impact of flying insects. Even so, orb webs suffer a lot of damage throughout the course of a day. These spiders repair their webs on a daily basis. Weavers in other families, like the giant European house spider, will abandon their webs when they get dirty or damaged and simply make another. These webs can accumulate quickly, giving your business an unkept look, or even causing a fire hazard in extreme cases. Working with your Sprague technician can help you determine the combination of dewebbing, perimeter treatments, and targeting prey populations that will help keep spiders from decorating your establishment… at least until next Halloween.
Written by, Kacie Hargett, Eugene Route Manager